The hidden beaches of Kardamyli

Kardamilli is an idyllic mountain village, with traditional stone houses and narrow streets. However, Kardamilli is not on a mountain. Instead, it is surrounded by many of them, but situated next to the sea. This special village was the movie set from “Before Midnight” and is in reality as romantic as the movie. But what makes Kardamyli the perfect summer holiday destination, are the hidden beaches in the area.

Location Overview

Natural site
min 2 hours to max 2 days
Free
Be careful
No

Location

Kardamyli is located in the Mani region. This is a region in the middle of the Peloponnese peninsula. You can get to this beautiful village in two ways. Either you fly to Athens and drive 300 km (190 miles) South-East. Passing along many interesting places in the Peloponnese. However, if your holiday goal is to explore only the Mani region, you might prefer to fly to Kalamata. This city is only 47 km (30 miles) away from Kardamyli.

Landscape

Kardamilli was first mentioned in 1200 B.C. as the main port of Sparta. And today, the village’s connection with the sea is still what it is known for. The rugged coastline, surrounded by lush green mountains on one side, and clear blue waters on the other, are what make the area unique. Kardamily is the perfect place for nature lovers. Both on- and off-shore.

The beaches

Kardamyli offers countless opportunities to explore the Greek coastline. Around town, there is the organized beach of Ritsa, as well as multiple smaller beaches you stumble upon at the end of a village road. However, the real beauty of the region can be found a couple kilometers South of the village. At Foneas and Delfinia.

Delfinia

Let’s start with the least spectacular hidden one of the hidden beaches in Kardamyli. Delfinia is about 5 kilometers (3 miles) South of the villages, which is less than 10 minutes by car. You can park your car next to the main road and from here, the experience of Delfinia begins. 

There are stairs leading down to the beach, surrounded by beautiful old trees. Along the way, you will be amazed by the views of the sea and the untouched landscape around.

The beach is made from white pebble stones, and the water is clear as crystal. Because the beach is located in a bay, you will have beautiful scenery to enjoy during your swim. But another benefit of the bay is that (most days) you will find a natural swimming pool. A sea without waves or currents. As the Greeks call it, a sea-like oil.

Foneas

Foneas beach is slightly closer to Kardamyli, just 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) South. Although the way to Foneas is less spectacular (you can park your car in front of the beach), the beach itself is one of the most amazing places I have ever seen. 

Foneas lies in a much smaller bay than Delfinia, and the landscape here is extremely impressive. There is a cliffside cave, an underwater tunnel, and a giant rock in the middle of the beach. All surrounded by calm blue water.

What makes Foneas special, is the underwater life around the rocky coastline. Not many places in Greece are home to interesting and various species of fish. At Foneas, however, you will be surprised by the life that hides underneath the calm blue surface.

Tips:

  • Protect yourself against the sun. Both Delfinia and Foneas beach are unorganized, meaning there are no umbrellas to protect you against the sun. Bring your own, or find shade in the rugged landscape. Bring enough water, sunblock, and even a hat.
  • Unfortunately, the beaches of Kardamyli are becoming more popular each year. For the best experience, the end of May, the beginning of June, or September are the best times to visit. Nevertheless, if you’re passing by during the busy summer months, you can wake up early and have the beaches all to yourself during sunrise!
  • Delfinia means what it sounds like, dolphins. Although the beach has this name due to the dolphins that visit this part of the Greek seas, don’t get your hopes up. You might spot a dolphin, but you will have to be very lucky to do so.
  • At Delfinia, there is a small cantine halfway down the stairs that lead to the beach. They sell delicious pitas, small pies. We ate some for breakfast while enjoying a beautiful view over the beach. A priceless moment.

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Explore Neapoli in Greece

This summer, I discovered the most underrated Greek town. Neapoli Voion, or simply Neapoli or Vatika. This small town is located in the South of the least famous “leg” of the Peloponnese peninsula. The one with terrible roads and very few tourists. If people know Neapoli, it is because the ferries to Kythira depart from here, or they are confused with the one in Crete. However, when looking for an off-the-beaten-track experience in Greece, this town should be on your itinerary.

Location Overview

Laconia, Peloponnese
City
1 – 3 days
Free
Yes
Yes

Location

Neapoli lies in the South of the Laconia region on the Peloponnese peninsula. Between the famous Mani region on the right and the well-known Porto Cheli on the left. You can reach Neapoli by car from Athens in four and a half hours. However, this route will not take you through the beautiful road I have traveled to get here. Therefore, I advise exploring the coastal roads leading down from Astros, making your way to Vatika an adventure.

History

Neapoli in Greek means New (nea) Town (poli). And although the town you can visit today is new, the city’s history started in ancient Greece. Between the 10th and 9th century B.C., Heraclied Boeus founded a city on the ground that is now Neapoli. He called it Boiai, named after himself. Boiai later became the port of Sparta and was an ancient Greek city complete with a forum and multiple temples. However, in 375 A.D., the earthquake that created Monemvasia destroyed Boiai. Only remains from this city are preserved and displayed at the Archeological museum of Neapoli.

In the Middle Ages, a new village arose named Vatika. And although the name Vatika is still used today for the region of Neapoli, the settlement was later renamed Pezoula. In 1837, the Bavarian architect Birbach designed an urban plan for a new town. Neapoli was created and grew to 3.000 inhabitants today.

City Layout

As an architect, I mostly like Neapoli because Birbach did a great job. The town feels well-designed, practical, and great for its inhabitants. Almost every house in Neapoli is no more than a five-minute walk away from the beach. In the middle of the beach is the port. And along the coast is the heart of the town. A boulevard as long as the town’s width, with stores, taverns, and bars.

Neapoli shows how important urban design is for a city. It shows how much architecture influences the way people live. In Neapoli, the locals can enjoy an early morning swim, endlessly sip coffee in front of the sea, and stroll at the boulevard at night. Even Thessaloniki, a city famous for its Siga Siga mentality, is not set up for a life as relaxed as here.

Sunset from the boulevard of Neapoli looking over the beach and the sea few clouds in the sky

Friendly city

The urban plan of the city also makes for a friendly environment. Besides the boulevard, there are hardly any cars passing through the streets, which are all one-way. You can safely walk around and even let your children play outside or walk to the beach by themselves. 

The town has a lot of green areas, with palm trees and other vegetation. And there are even front gardens! How often do you see those in a Greek town?

What I also noticed in Neapoli is that there are not a lot of abandoned or unfinished buildings around. This means that rules about construction are clear and complied with. Besides, it shows that people stay in the area, don’t have money problems, and take care of their property. 

Experience Neapoli

The town of Neapoli has a Blue Flag Beach, a couple of museums, and tasty food. However, I recommend you to stay in Neapoli because of the culture of the locals. Neapoli made me slow down because no one here seems to know what rushing is. Besides, there is a sea view from almost everywhere. 

If you are planning on visiting Neapoli, book accommodation up front. There are not a lot of places to stay in the area during the summer months. We found a comfortable apartment called Sea view house Matina on booking. I can recommend this place to any couple. It is close to the beach and boulevard, has kind neighbors, and above all, has an amazing view. Check the available accommodations in Neapoli and support me to keep writing. 

Experience Vatika

Vatika, the area around Neapoli, is full of beautiful untouched nature and amazing sites. Here are a few you should definitely add to your list of destinations:

  • Petrified palm forest. A unique natural phenomenon. Due to a similar process as Faraklou in Lemnos, but with a different and unique outcome.
  • Pavlopetri. An Underwater city of about 5000 years old situated in the clear blue waters of Vatika Bay. Don’t forget your snorkeling gear!
  • Kastania Cave. One of the most impressive caves in Greece.
  • Beach at Pounta and Elafonisos. The bluest water in the area, with big white sandy beaches.
  • The many churches in the area. They are located on top of mountains and have great sea views. 
small fishing boat in clear blue water with behind a white beach and mountains close to Neapoli at Pounta in Greece

Tips:

  • Visit Neapoli and Vatika during the summer months or at least in the months you can enjoy the sea. The beach is such an important part of this town that visiting during another season will not provide the experience I want you to have.
  • Live like a local! Swim, eat, and repeat throughout the day. Relax in this quiet town. Neapoli is the perfect destination if you want a combination of exploration and relaxation. A hike in the mountainous and rough landscape around is a must. But don’t expect nightlife, crowded shopping streets, or fancy beach bars. Just relax.
  • In the middle of Neapoli is a river that is always dry in summer and used as parking. However, when a summer storm comes, don’t forget to get your car out of this river bank. Last year, some tourists, as well as locals, lost their cars to the sea like this!
  • Combine Neapoli with Monemvasia, Gythio, Limin Ieraki, Elafonisos, or Kithira.

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Note

I visited Neapoli this summer, together with my boyfriend. Unfortunately, he got sick when we entered the town. My stay in Neapoli was, therefore, not what I had planned. I was worried about him and panicking about how our trip was going to continue since I did not have my driver’s license yet and needed to get back on the road the next morning.

In the end, I did like Neapoli more than I thought I would. While I planned on staying here to explore the Vatika region, I ended up surprised by Neapoli itself. However, I intend to go back next year to explore the area as I had planned. But I do know for sure that I will stay again in Neapoli.

Neapoli at the port food dakos wit an alfa beer white church behind and ferry on the water

Explore Xanthi. In the North of Greece

The day I heard my Greek boyfriend is from North-West Greece, I felt a bit sad. Why didn’t I find a guy from Crete, Kefalonia, or Mykonos? How am I…

Enter ancient Greece at Mycenae

Greece is famous for its rich amount of archeological sites. Building in the country is almost impossible due to the abundance of history hidden underneath Greek soil. As a result, even the smallest towns have archeological sites or museums. Most of these sites are fields, covered with ancient foundations and restored columns. The most famous sites might have a building that survived time, like the Parthenon in the Acropolis or the theatre at Epidaurus. At the ancient city of Mycenae, however, you can actually touch and enter the structures built thousands of years ago. This archeological site is a truly unique experience.

Location Overview

Argolis, Peloponnese

Archeological site

1.5 – 2 hours

€6,- to €12,-
seasonal

Be careful

Yes

Location

Mycenae lies in the North of the Peloponnese peninsula, in the Argolis region. The ancient site is just 1 hour and 40 minutes away from Athens Airport by car, and the first famous archeological site you find when entering the Peloponnese.

The location of the ancient city is impressive. On top of a hill, overlooking the sea in the south, and de fields and mountains all around.

Mythology

Mycenae is an ancient city on top of a hill built from giant rocks. It seems almost impossible that human hands constructed this city so long ago. So, Greek mythology came up with an explanation.

According to mythology, Zeus and Danae (the daughter of the king of Argos, a city close by) had a son, Perseus. He wandered around the area that is now Mycenae and either dropped his cap or found a mushroom. A cap, as well as a mushroom are myces in the ancient Greek language. So we can not know which of the two Perseus was about to pick up. But when Perseus picked up his myces, he found a water spring. He decided to settle right there and called his city Mycenae.

Perseus wanted to fortify the city he was now king of and called the cyclopes. These one-eyed giants were strong enough to pick up large and heavy stones with ease. They created fortification walls that mark the outline of Mycenae till today. The Cyclopean walls, named after their builders.

History

Mycenae is over nine thousand years old. The first signs of human life in the area date back to the Early Neolithic Age in the 7th century B.C. However, not much of the early Mycenae survived through time, and the archeological site mostly tells the story of the city’s prime time.

Between 1350 and 1200 B.C., Mycenae was a major center of Greek civilization. The city expanded rapidly to a population of 300,000. Many buildings in the citadel were rebuilt, and the fortification walls were constructed. The Lion Gate, the tholos tombs, and the palace, for example, all originate in this time in ancient Greece. Unfortunately, because of this, not much of Mycenae before this time survived. 

After 1200 B.C., Mycenae lost its status as the center of power. The site got destroyed for an unknown reason. The citadel was partly rebuilt later but caught fire and then was slowly abandoned. The ruins of ancient Mycenae have been a tourist attraction since Roman times and have remained popular till today. The site has been on the list of UNESCO world heritage since 1999.

The archeological site of Mycenae

The archeological site of ancient Mycenae is one of the oldest in Greece. Eight hundred years older than the Acropolis and constructed two thousand years before the close by site of Mystras. However, the site is well preserved. A visit to Mycenae is like a visit to ancient Greece.

I have never felt more connected with history than during my visit to Mykines. There are ancient streets you can walk on, structures you can enter, spaces you can experience, and walls you can touch. At the site, there is a concrete path you can follow. This path leads you to all the impressive structures of the old city. I would recommend first entering the citadel and visiting the tombs at the beginning of the site afterward.

The Lion Gate

The most famous and first structure at Mycenae is the Lion Gate. This gate marks the entrance to the city in an impressive 3-meter (10 feet) tall wall. 

The reason behind the gate’s name is above the passage. There is a large, triangular, limestone slab with the image of two confronted lionesses. Although the heads are missing, the image in the stone is still clear and detailed. But more impressively, the lionesses are not just there for ornamentation. The limestone’s triangular shape gives stability to the giant rocks in the wall above the entrance. Without this stone, the gate would collapse.

Nature and History

After passing through the Lion Gate, you have entered the citadel. From the gate, a concrete path marks the route around the city. Along grave circle A, the palace, temples, and many other buildings. 

Cyclopean walls, constructed for fortification, enclose the entire citadel. From these walls, the view of the surrounding landscape is breathtaking and reveals how well-positioned this ancient city used to be. At a both strategic and defensive location in the area. You will be continuously drawn between being amazed by the ancient structures, to being astonished by the magnificent views.

The underground cistern

At the most eastern point of the archeological site, you can find a rare experience, the underground cistern. Although its entrance looks like a cave in the fortification wall, it is actually the beginning of a spectacular piece of architecture.

The cave marks the entrance of a passage. This passage is a staircase that leads 18 meters deep and at the end of this staircase, there is an even deeper structure. A well, made of clay, collects water from a natural spring. This well used to provide a continuous supply of water to the citadel, and is one of the oldest underground aqueducts you can visit in Greece.

Unfortunately, only a part of the tunnel is open to the public. However, this is enough to reveal how advanced and intelligent the Mycenaen civilization used to be. You can enter the tunnel, descend part of the stairs and see how deep down the staircase reaches. However, even the giant stones that enclose the stairs in an arc-like shape, are an art piece by themselves.

The tholos tombs

After visiting the ancient city of Mycenae, you can enter grave circle B. Located just outside of the city’s wall, the tombs of Aegisthus and Clymentemnesta are worth the climb down the steep hillside.

The tombs are called the tholos tombs. Tholo in Greek means dome, which perfectly describes the shape of the tombs as they are large underground domes, or beehive tombs in English. But how were these impressive underground shapes created?

First, the Greeks make a large round opening into a hill. Inside this opening, they placed huge stones in circular rows, on top of each other. Each row sticks out slightly over the previous one, to decrease the diameter of the circle of stones gradually. They continue this process upward, until the circle’s diameter is as small as a singular stone. This is the top of the dome.

After the Greeks completed the dome shaped-structure, they restored the hill, by adding soil on top of the tomb. The dome shape of the structure made it survive underground. The tomb of Clymentemnesta proves the strength of the dome design. When a theatre was built on top of it at later times, the structure was able to hold the weight.

The entrance to the tombs is a wide path leading into the otherwise hidden dome. This path is called the dromos in Greek. This dromos leads to the tomb’s entrance, marked by a gate, constructed similar to the Lion Gate. 

The tomb of Aegisthus is destroyed at the top. However, the tomb of Clymentemnesta is fully preserved and impressive. The scale of the tombs at Mycenae is unbelievable, and the acoustics inside adds to their size. They are real masterpieces of ancient Greek architecture.

Tips:

  • The whole site, except for the tombs, is accessible by wheelchair. However, the concrete path is very steep at some points, so keep this in mind.
  • Visit the site in the order described above. You will go from being amazed to being more amazed, and being beyond amazed!
  • Bring plenty of water and sunscreen when you visit the archeological site of Mycenae during the summer months. The location, on top of a hill, requires quite a hike, and shading is scarce at the citadel. Therefore, it is better to visit off-season. This period will also show a clearer view of the landscape around.
  • Don’t forget to visit the museum and the tomb of Agamemnon. The museum is located slightly downhill, on the North of ancient Mycenea. You can find the tomb on the road down to the village of Mykines.
  • Combine a visit to Mycenae with Epidaurus, Nafplio, the Sunken City, the Dolines of Didyma, or any of the beaches close by.
  • You will have to pay entrance to enter Mycenae. A ticket costs €12,- from April to October. Off-season and for children, the price is €6,-. There is another ticket available that is valid for three days and combines Mycenae with other museums and ancient sites in the area. This ticket costs €20,-.
  • Mycenea is open from 8 AM to 8 PM during the summer months. When traveling outside this season, you should check the opening hours before your visit since they change each month.

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Meteorites, UFOs, or rebellious priests? The dolines of Didyma

In the Argolis region, in the North East of the Peloponnese, satellites reveal a rare geological phenomenon. Two big green circles not far away from each other. The dolines of Didyma. These dolines are not the first thing you will find in any Greek tourist guide. However, they are impressive and unique natural landmarks.

Location Overview

Argolis, Peloponnese

Natural site

1 hour

Free

Be careful

No

The village of Didyma

Didyma is a small farmers’ village on the foot of the mountain, also called Didyma. The name shows the importance and the connection to the dolines. Didyma in Greek means twins. And the twins this name refers to are the two sinkholes close by. 

In spring, something unique happens in the village. The fields around Didyma fill with a rare orange-red tulip. Every year in April, these beautiful flowers are celebrated with a festival. So when you’re around during this time of the year, don’t forget to attend this colorful event.

What is a doline?

A doline is “a shallow funnel-shaped depression of the ground surface.” Dolines are also known as sinkholes, a term that might trigger your imagination. Dolines appear when water and carbon dioxide underneath the earth’s surface dissolve the limestone in the ground. The earth collapses, and a hole is created. This process can happen gradually or suddenly. But the result is the same, a circular hole in the ground. 

Usually, dolines have a pool of water at the bottom. Like the famous caves in Cephalonia, for example. In Didyma, however, there is no water at the bottom. Just lush green vegetation. Because of this, scientists are not one hundred percent sure the dolines of Didyma are the dolines described above. They might result from natural gas explosions, which can explain the amount of debris inside them.

Miki Spilia from above. A green oasis, even in August.

The myths of Didyma

Although modern geological knowledge can justify the existence of the dolines of Didyma, this has not been the case in the generations before us. The sinkholes have, therefore, been the subject of many great stories the locals still tell today.

The most known story is about meteorites. Two of them crashed into the earth just outside of Didyma. As a result, the two green craters mark the landscape today. 

Another explanation is extraterrestrial life. Aliens. They came in their UFOs to Didyma and crashed into the earth upon landing. Leaving two perfectly circular marks in the ground. The sinkholes.

The third explanation is (of course) a story of the Orthodox church. A rebellious priest who worked on the name-day of Agios Georgios. A day of celebration for the church, on which work is prohibited. The earth collapsed underneath this priest when he said bad things. But what about the second doline? Maybe the priest had a rebellious twin brother?

History

The dolines are called mikri and megali Spilia, the big and the small cave. Throughout history, the dolines have been used as caves. Natural voids, able to provide shelter from bad weather and enemies.

The age of the dolines at Didyma is unknown, but they have been around long before even the ancient Greeks. Stone tools from the prehistoric age (4.000 – 2.800 B.C.) have been found inside the dolines. Proving that the dolines have been inhabited for centuries.

The churches inside the small doline date back to the Byzantine era. During this era, many priests choose to lead a solitary life in huts or caves. Both churches are a result of this and started as nothing more than a cave inside the doline. A place to practice the orthodox faith. Alone in peace.

Later, during the Turkish occupation, the dolines of Didyma have been a place for shelter and protest. Due to the enclosed and hidden shape, the Greeks used the space to make ammunition to fight their occupants.

One of the two cave churches inside the dolines

Visiting the dolines of Dydima

Mikri Spilia

Following the signs to the dolines, you will first find Mikri Spilia, the small cave. Don’t expect an impressive view of the doline upon arrival. Instead, you will find a small grey fence in between many trees. Inside this fence is a narrow hole carved out of the red ground. This hole marks the beginning of a staircase which leads you down into the doline.

A tunnel with white-washed walls encloses the narrow staircase. Halfway down, you will find a natural skylight which might have been an older entrance. Only at the end of the tunnel, you catch the first glimpse of the scale of Mikri Spilia. High red walls enclose you in a perfect circle. And on the right, you can see the first of the two white churches. Agios Georgios. 

The skylight inside the entrance tunnel toward Mikri Spilia

Being inside the doline, you feel like you have entered a different world. There are many trees, plants, and birds. And the blue sky seems closer than anywhere else due to the contrast with the circular walls of red stone. It is a quiet oasis of peacefulness. And the natural beauty here is unique for the Greek mainland.

It is possible to hike the perimeter of the doline. Simply follow the path along the red crater wall. On your way, you will discover the second church, Naos Metamorfosis. A cave church, marked by white paint on the red wall.

Megali Spilia

Although Megali Spilia is the biggest of the twins, this doline is less accessible and impressive from the inside. Megali Spilia is at the bottom of the mountain called Didyma and therefore enclosed by a wall that is uneven in height. The walls are less red, the sky is less framed, and the bottom is less green. However, what this doline has that Mikri Spilia has not, is an impressive view. 

Magali Spilia is not as much a place to visit as her little sister is. But it is the doline that attracts you toward the twins. You can see this hole in the mountain from far away, on the main road between Epidaurus and Porto Cheli. 

Megali Spilia, the big doline at the foot of the mountain.

Tips:

  • The dolines of Didyma are still active. When you hear stones falling upon entering, please be super careful and leave the site. Although chances are small that something will happen, better be safe than sorry.
  • Unfortunately, the dolines of Didyma are not accessible for people with a walking disability. The entrance of the small sinkhole is steep and slippery. And the big doline is not even accessible by car because the dirt road is too rough. However, just a glimpse of the shape and size of the big doline from far is worth it.
  • Don’t try to reach the big doline by car unless you have a very high off-road car. The dirt road gets progressively worse. With a normal car, there is a big chance you will get stuck. Leave your car at the small parking, and continue on foot. Walking will take just 10 to 15 minutes.
  • When you plan on visiting the doline with children, be very careful with them. The dolines do not have a balustrade or fences at dangerous spots. Keep them close.
  • The best time to visit the dolines is around April when rare tulips flourish in the fields around Didyma. However, you can explore the dolines throughout the whole year. The depth of the dolines makes them a great summer activity because the temperature will not be as high as above ground. Be careful when it rains. The entrance staircase gets even more slippery when wet.
  • Combine Didyma with a visit to Epidaurus or the cave of Franchthi, for which you can hike a beautiful trail along the coastline. Or pick out a close by beach and enjoy Greece’s clear blue seas. Didyma is easily accessible from Nafplio, Porto Cheli, or Tolo.

Curious to learn about more hidden gems in Greece? Leave your email below and explore Greece together with us!

Impressively deep and incredibly blue. The Corinth canal

The most popular holiday destination on the Greek mainland, Peloponnese, is known as a large peninsula in the South. However, technically, Peloponnese has been an island for almost 150 years. The Corinth canal separates this famous peninsula from the mainland of Greece as a narrow straight line of clear blue water.

Corinthea, Peloponnese

Natural / Architectural

1.5 hours

Free

Be careful

Yes

Location

The Corinth canal is at the border of the most southern peninsula of Greece, Peloponnese. Just one hour West of Athens Airport. The waterway cuts through the mainland in a straight line. From Isthmia in the East, on the coast of the Aegean Sea (Saronic Gulf). To Posidonia in the West, on the coast of the Ionian Sea (Gulf of Corinth). With this location, this man-made canal connects the two main seas of Greece.

History

Peloponnese reaches far South of Athens and has formed a dangerous detour for ships throughout history. The round around the famous peninsula put 185 nautical miles (340 km, 213 miles) in between the Aegean and the Ionian sea. And it comes as no surprise that even the Ancient Greeks understood that the two seas should be brought together.

Periander, who ruled Corinth in 602 BC, was the first to imagine the Corinth canal. He tried. But digging a 6.4 km (4 miles) long waterway turned out to be too advanced for his time. As an alternative, Periander created a diolkos. Dia means across in Greek, and the diolkos was a paved trackway to move boats across the land. This diolkos was in use for over two centuries.

The second attempt to create the Corinth canal happened in 67 AD. Emperor Nero and a group of 6.000 (!) of his slaves started work at the side of Corinth. Historians believe that during this attempt, almost a tenth of the waterway was constructed. However, Nero died long before completion, and construction came to a stop for centuries.

The idea of the modern waterway arose in 1830, after the fall of the Ottoman Empire when the Greek economy wasn’t strong enough to start. In 1882, with the help of an Austrian company, construction started. But soon came to hold (once more) due to financial issues related to the Panama canal. In 1890, and with the help of a Greek investor, the Corinth canal finally became reality. It opened in 1893, on October 28.

The Corinth canal in use

After more than two centuries of waiting for the Corinth canal to be opened, it turned out to be far from the success everyone had hoped for. The only 21 meters (70 feet) width at the bottom proved to be insufficient for larger ships. Big vessels do not fit, and many captains have difficulty navigating through. Not only the narrowness of the canal, but strong winds and currents as well, make the waterway a dangerous place, even for smaller boats.

Besides, the steep 90 meters (300 feet) tall canal walls have proven risky. Even for the most talented captains. Rock debris often falls down into the water. Closing the passage for weeks, months, or even years. Today, you can see many man-made fortifications of the walls. As well as wider parts that are a result of big land slides. Fully functional the waterway has never been in the 130 years it is open.

Visiting the canal

Despite the Corinth canal being a struggle for most boat owners, for us tourists, it is a spectacular place to visit. The canal walls are impressively tall and steep, and the water at the bottom is incredibly blue. The scale of this man-made project is unbelievable. And the fact that a big ship looks small here, makes you question your own size like nowhere else.

corinth canal white cliff walls with blue water at bottom and greenery around
The depth of the Corinth canal, seen from the old bridge
The old bridge

The best-known location to admire the Corinth canal is the old bridge. A steel structure, in the middle of the canal, on the main national road between Athens and Peloponnese. Here you can park your car and walk high over the water. In the middle of the bridge, you can feel the scale of this project, and seeing a ship passing underneath you in the clear blue water is exciting. 

For more excitement, there is an option to bungee jump, down along the canal walls. However, since my legs were already shaking of the height on the bridge, I will not be able to tell you about this experience. But if you’re not afraid of heights, please let me know how it is in the comments below!

What I can tell you, is that the famous old bridge is not the only place to experience the Corinth canal. It is the most popular one and makes the best Instagram picture, but it can be packed with tourists. I would really recommend you to visit Isthmia or Posidonia. The beginning and end of the waterway.

The submersible bridges

At the end of the 1980s, Greece constructed two unusual bridges at both ends of the Corinth canal. Reaching Isthmia and Posidonia, you might believe you have reached the end of the road. The clear blue water of the waterway blocks the passage to the other side, while a connecting bridge structure seems to be missing.

But when the last boat has passed through the canal, something incredible happens. Machines turn on, and from the depth of the crystal water, the silhouette of a structure appears. A wooden deck, complete with balustrades, emerges from the water. The bridge arrives. Cars, cyclists, and pedestrians can cross the water. Until the structure slowly dives back to hide at the bottom of the Corinth canal.

Isthmia is the perfect spot to have a coffee and enjoy the beauty of this tourist attraction without tourists, and in peace. The place is close to being abandoned. Which is hard to believe, coming from the over-crowded touristic old bridge, just 2 km (1.2 miles) away. Why have people stopped coming here? I think it’s a shame. At the old bridge, the canal is more impressive in size, but the best experience is found here. Besides, in Posidonia, the remains of the old diolkos are preserved! 

corinth canal at istmia big red ship towed by small blue boat in between rocks on blue water
A big ship passing through the Corinth canal at Istmia

Tips:

  • The Corinth canal is just an hour away from Athens and easily accessible by car from the highway. It is the perfect destination for a trip away from the city. Or as the start of a holiday in Peleponnese.
  • The Corinth canal is very close to two famous archeological sites on the UNESCO world heritage list. Combine your visit with Mykines (30 minutes) or Eupidaurus (1 hour).
  • During a hot summer day in Greece, it can be difficult to see clear blue water without being able to swim in it. But don’t worry. Around the site are many great beaches and beach bars perfect for a refreshing swim.
  • The name of the village Isthmia is chosen for a reason. Isthmia in Greek means a narrow piece of land connecting two larger areas across the water by which they would otherwise be separated.

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Nature, religion, and a box of bones. The monastery of Timios Prodromes

The holy monastery of Timios Prodromes offers everything a culture-loving tourist in Greece desires. From the mountainous landscape to incredible architecture, fascinating stories, religion, and exclusivity. With just 50 reviews on Google, this monastery might be the hidden gem of Greece.

Location Overview

Arcadia, Peloponnese

Religion / Nature

2 hours

Free

Yes

No

Location

The holy monastery of Timios Prodromes lies just west of Argos, in the Arcadia region of Peloponnese. This region is known to hold the oldest signs of human life but is still an area filled with lush green mountains and a limited population today. Arcadia’s beauty made its name develop into a poetic term. The idyllic vision of unspoiled wilderness.

Driving to the monastery, you discover what poets mean with Arcadia. A small winding road leads you away from Argos. Over the mountains, along steep cliffs, and through old forests and small villages, you reach the monastery. Only the journey by itself is a beautiful adventure.

the monastery of timios prodromes from afar. three white buildings in steep grey and red cliff on green mountain
The monastery of Timios Prodromes from far

Architecture

Greeks have proven to be masters in the matter of the architecture of religious buildings. Churches and monasteries all around the country are built in the most surprising and remote places. The monastery of Timios Prodromes belongs to this category.

The monastery is located around a cave in the hollow of a cliff, 200 meters above the ground. From afar the religious site is an almost invisible structure in a giant gorge. Close by, however, the monasteries multiple story counting man-made buildings are revealed.

There is a central courtyard with a church, refectory, and guest rooms in the three surrounding buildings. Each of these buildings is integrated into the cliff, with at least one natural interior wall, the mountain itself. For the man-made part of the buildings, a similar rock is used. You can feel the connection this monastery has with nature everywhere.

the monastery of timios prodromes from the courtyard. stone building with wooden balustrade en pitched roof underneath a rocky cliff and blue sky
One of the buildings at the monastery of Timios Prodromes

History

The cave behind the monastery was used in ancient times to worship Pan. Pan is the God of the wild, shepherds, and flocks, with his homeland in Arcadia. In the 8th century, the cave started being used for the religion we know today, and in 930 the first monastery was built. Making the monastery of Timios Prodromes the oldest monastery in Greece. However, the entrance says that the opening was at 1126, and what happened in the 200 years in between is unclear.

What is clear is that the monastery has played a significant role in many wars due to its remote location. It has been a refuge for the civilian population, a military hospital, and a supply station for Greek soldiers. 

During the Second World War, German soldiers came to the monastery for food but offended the Orthodox faith. This made one of the priests very angry, and he forced a German soldier to the ground. The rest of the priests got afraid. “They will kill us all!” They ordered the priest to stop and offered food to the soldiers. The priest, however, became the high priest of the region due to this heroic attack on the German soldier.

Modern times

The monastery has been the main monastery in the area until the 1960s. Then, a nearby and better accessible monastery received the tears of the virgin Mary, something that is believed to only occur in the holiest places in Greece. People stopped coming to the monastery of Timios Prodromes. From 2004 till 2009, the monastery, as well as the road leading there, were renovated. An effortful job since materials still had to be brought up by hand. However, this did not increase the number of visitors. The monastery is mostly quiet, without tourists, both religious and cultural.

The experience

When entering the monastery, the place seemed deserted. There was no sound other than the rushing of the wind. The only sign of life was a black garden hose. Following this, lead to the courtyard of the monastery, where we first met father Germanos. He was watering his flowers, wearing capri pants, flip-flops, and sunglasses. We were afraid to disturb him or even see a priest without his religious attire. Father Germanos, however, was very pleased with our arrival. He greeted us friendly and spent the next two hours showing us around. Something very unique for Orthodox priests, who usually just mind their own business.

entrance of monastery timios prodromes with marble entrace and steel gate. A black lantern on curved ceiling light coming through hallway woman entering with backpack and long skirt
The entrance of the monastery of Timios Prodromes

The tour

The church

From the courtyard, he leads us to the church, where we light a candle and honor all the religious icons that are special to this place. In the church, some murals date back to the 18th century, and father Germanos tells a story about all of them. He describes how all Orthodox sanctuaries are located to the East but not here. This church is an exception and faces the South. Since it is built inside a cave, there wasn’t much to choose from in orientation, but the murals falsely claim the sanctuary does face East.

After the church, he takes us to a small staircase leading up to the cave where the history of this monastery started. But first, we enter the church’s attic. Here, he opens two wooden boxes, one filled with bones and the other one with skulls. The last resting place of the previous priests that served in this monastery.

The cave

The cave is extremely long and dark. He tells us how previous priests used to store food and fresh water here because it stays cool during the hot summer days. He takes out his mobile phone to turn on a flashlight and takes us to the back, where stalactites and stalagmites have grown over the years. A beautiful place!

The monastery

After the cave, he invites us to his current project, the renovation of the guest chambers. Small rooms, carved in the rock of the mountain, for his fellow priests from other monasteries. He renovates the rooms by himself, one by one, and he is very proud of his result so far. 

We climb to the roof of the monastery, where you can feel how small and vulnerable we humans are. Chunks of the cliff above have tumbled down on the roof. He proudly tells us that no one got injured from any falling rocks here. God protects all in this place.

The living quarters

At the end of our tour, father Germanos invites us into his house for fresh water and loukoumi, a traditional Greek sweet. He has a small home, with a living room and kitchen. And in his fridge is a small plate of fassolada. He explains how eating here is the same as anywhere else. Priests don’t eat meat, but do use a microwave to heat up his leftovers

Father Germanos seems sad when it is time to say goodbye and walks with us to the main entrance, continuing his storytelling. We are always welcome to come again, and may God protect us on the road home.

The buildings at the monastery of Timios Prodromes

Life at the monastery

Father Germanos lives most of his days in solitude. Or together with God but without other humans, as he calls it. He keeps himself busy with more than just praying since he has to take care of the monastery by himself. He waters the flowers, cleans the monastery, renovates the guest chambers, and gets his groceries from the villages around. 

Father Germanos has a friend in the village on the mountain on the other side. Another priest who helps him in the monastery when he asks. And he is happy when a visitor comes to see the monastery. However, father Germanos might get trapped for weeks during the winter months. Bad weather and cold can close down the road. He doesn’t worry or feel scared or alone when this happens. God will be with me and protect me, he says. His biggest fear seems to be an old cypress tree that grows in his garden. After 300 years, it started dying. He asks all his visitors how he can revive it. 

His life seems easy, and his calmness and contentedness add to the spirituality of the place. I am not religious, but the location and the openness of father Germanos at the monastery of Timios Prodromes made me feel something ethereal. Maybe not God, but at least thankful for nature and the opportunity to discover it. Grateful for my own life and happiness. Blessed with the experience of a place so pure.

Tips:

  • There are actually two monasteries with the name Timios Prodromos in Arcadia, Peloponnese. This is the one that we visited for this article.
  • Father Germanos is extremely welcoming but does not speak more than a few words of English and German. The best experience is, unfortunately, in Greek.
  • The monastery is not accessible by wheelchair or for people with difficulty walking. You can get to the entrance by car, but after you park, you have to climb some steep stairs to reach the entrance.
  • This is a monastery, meaning you can not enter with every type of clothing. Women need to wear a long skirt or dress, men can not wear shorts, and shoulders have to be covered. Read our tips for visiting religious sites.
  • Although father Germanos is really open, friendly, and even has some humor, he is also very religious. Don’t offend the Orthodox church and treat him with respect.
  • The holy monastery of Timios Prodromes is located in a beautiful mountainous landscape with many religious sites at amazing places. Combine with a visit to the small church inside an old church ruin just North of Nea Chora. Or the famous monastery of Panagia Melevi.
  • Not that much of a religious tourist? Go hiking in the beautiful mountains around, or enjoy the blue waters of the Argolic Gulf on the beaches around Astros.

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Experience the ancient theatre of Epidaurus

In the north of Peloponnese, close to Nafplion and just 2 hours away from Athens, lies the ancient city of Epidaurus. Epidaurus was a small city established in the sixth century B.C. Today, it is a big tourist attraction due to the most well-preserved ancient theatre. The site is on the list of UNESCO world heritage and is famous for its acoustics. Epidaurus is known as the most impressive ancient theatre in the world. But what is the true experience of visiting this place?

Argolis, Peloponnese

Archeological site

1 hour

€6 – 12,-
depending on age and time

Yes

Yes

History

The city of Epidaurus was not like the average ancient city. Since the sixth century B.C., it is known as the healing center of the classical world. Ill people from all over Greece would come here to visit the Sanctuary of Asclepius, the Greek god of healing. Treatment would involve a cleansing diet and healing through dreams. But there are also records from performed surgeries and the use of medication.

The ancient theatre of Epidaurus was created as a part of the healing practice. It was believed that the observation of dramatic shows could increase not only mental but also physical health. The original theatre was completed in the fourth century B.C. with 34 rows. Later, in roman times (2nd century B.C.), 21 more rows were added. The complete theatre provides space for about 14.000 spectators.

Architecture

The theatre of Epidavros is an architectural masterpiece designed by the architect Polykleitos. It is built as part of the Cynortion mountain and looks over the lush landscape below. Impressive and giant gates mark the entrance on both sides of the theatre.

The gate at the entrance of the theatre, against the high walls that surround the theater’s koilon or cavea.

From the entrance, you first see the perfectly circular stage, the orchestra, with a width of about 25 meters. The center of the stage is the center of the entire theatre. This spot is marked by a small circular stone, the thymele or altar. This is the stone on which the actor in ancient Greek times would stand to reach all the spectators with his voice.

Around the stage are the 55 rows of seats, the koilon or cavea. With a radius of 60 meters and at a 26-degree incline, these rows make the theatre most impressive. The scale and the height, the perfect symmetry, and the excellent preservation. The theatre of Epidaurus is one of the few places that make you understand the scale of ancient Greek society.

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Theatre experience

The instructions for visiting the theatre of Epidaurus are clear. You leave your travel partner on the circular stone plate in the middle of the stage while you start to climb up. After approximately 110 steps, you sit down on the highest row. When your friend below speaks, and you can hear every word.

In reality, however, I was not surprised when I tried to communicate with my boyfriend on stage. I could vaguely hear some of his words, but my ears mostly caught the sound of crickets around. How could it be that I was finally at this famous architectural masterpiece, and all I felt was disappointment? Was the whole story about the theatre just a way to lure tourists?

Aggrieved, I climbed down the stairs and sat in a row halfway in the theatre. When putting my phone back in my pocket, I heard a coin drop. Where did my money fall? I searched around but couldn’t see it. Another coin drops. What is happening? How can I be losing money I did not know I had with me?

Confused, I looked at the stage. And at this moment I realized just how special the theatre actually is. A man, standing in the middle of the stage, was dropping his coins. The sound started 40 meters away, but according to my ears, it sounded right next to me. That’s impressive acoustics!

The truth about the acoustics

What they often forget to tell about the theatre is how the material contributes to the acoustics. The theatre’s benches are made of limestone, except for the first marble rows for special guests. Limestone has the ability to filter out low-frequency sound and amplify high-frequency. With this material, the noise of the crowd is absorbed while the higher tones from the stage travel from bench to bench, to reach even the spectators in the highest rows.

This is why my boyfriend was surprised when I spoke to him from the stage, but reversed, the acoustics failed. His, and many other men’s voices, are too low to be amplified. So when you plan on visiting Epidaurus with a male travel partner, remember to use a coin!

The limestone benches and the theatre of Epidaurus

How did the theatre work in ancient times?

The material’s acoustics made me wonder. Did men plan in ancient Greek theatres? Or was it just women and boys before the age of puberty? Or is it the aging of the limestone that changed the acoustic aspects of the material?

No. 

The limestone properties did not change. And strangely, ancient Greek actors were men. One man, actually, during the time of the completion of Epidaurus. And although the number of men on stage changed over time, actresses were never allowed on an ancient Greek stage.

However, this one man used costumes and masks to define the different roles he played. And it is these masks that are the key to good acoustics. Ancient Greek masks both amplify the actor’s voice and change its acoustical qualities. It was the mask that helped the actor’s voice to work together with the limestone material and travel through the entire theatre. Amazing!

Tips:

  • Attend a theatre at the summer festival of Epidaurus. For a unique experience, Epidaurus offers ancient theatre plays, performed at the ancient theatre during the summer months. After sunset, you can watch a play from the same spot the Greeks used to sit thousands of years ago. For more information and tickets, check https://aefestival.gr.
  • Combine with a visit to the museum and the rest of the site. At Epidaurus, not only the theatre is well-preserved. Instead, the whole site provides a unique look into ancient times. 
  • Epidaurus is close to Mycenae, another UNESCO world heritage site. Mycenae is famous for its lion’s gate and well-preserved tombs.
  • When visiting during summer, the temperatures at Epidaurus might ask for a refreshing swim afterward. At Palaia Epidaurus, a picturesque town on the coast, 15 km away from the ancient site, you can find the sunken city of Epidaurus. Here, you can swim around the ruins of an ancient villa, a rare and exciting experience. Don’t forget to bring water shoes and snorkeling or diving gear.
  • The site of Epidaurus is well accessible for people with a disability. Paths are paved or asphalt. However, the theatre and the paths between the ruins are not.
  • Bring water, sunblock, and a hat. Not unlike anywhere else in Greece, temperatures in summer can rise to 40 degrees Celsius. Be prepared and protect yourself. Drink lots of water while you explore the ancient site.

Frequently asked questions

How to reach the ancient theatre of Epidaurus?

The ancient theatre of Epidaurus is easiest to reach by (rental) car from Athens in about two hours. For tourists, there are also many organized day tours to the site from Athens and other towns around. However, when joining these tours in summer, be prepared for high temperatures since you will reach in the middle of the day.

Do I have to pay an entry fee at Epidaurus?

Yes. A ticket for the ancient site of Epidaurus, the theatre, and the museum costs 12 euros per adult and 6 euros for children in summer. From November till March, tickets are half-price. There are a couple of days each year on which entry is free. Examples are the 18th of April, International Monuments Day, and the 18th of May, International Museums Day.

What are the opening hours of the theatre of Epidaurus?

In general, the site is open when the sun is up. From 8 am to 8pm in the summer months, and from 8 am till 5 pm during the winter. In April, September, and October it is best to check the opening hours before your visit. During holidays the site is either closed or has adjusted opening hours.

What is the best way to experience the acoustics of the ancient theatre of Epidaurus?

Drop a coin in the middle of the stage, and check how many people start looking around for money. Many guides tell you to speak from the center point of the theatre, but the best and most impressive experience is dropping a coin. You can literally hear a pin drop at all the 14.000 seats.